For several years, Nvidia has been working on its GeForce Now streaming service, which has been in beta until today. It has finally launched as a fully public and more or less complete service that (technically) anyone can use. GeForce Now has become the second modern game streaming service to hit the market, with the other being Google Stadia, though the two services have some distinct differences.
The key difference between Stadia and GeForce Now is the platform. Google decided that Stadia would be better off being built from the ground up on a Linux derived OS and playing games developed on the Vulkan API. While this is all well and good (Vulkan is a great API, after all), it meant that Google and developers had to port already finished titles to Stadia, which means Stadia has just a handful of games to play. By contrast, Nvidia has decided to basically just stream a desktop PC to your device, so (almost) anything that will run on a PC will run on GeForce Now, you just need to own it on Steam or another game store.
There is, however, a select amount of titles that GeForce Now supports at the moment, which Nvidia says is over a thousand. It’s not quite clear why Nvidia doesn’t support all games, but there are two plausible explanations: optimization and downloading. Nvidia might not allow you to play some titles because they haven’t officially cleared it for gaming and they don’t want their customers to think GeForce Now is a bad service. Also consider how gamers get games: through downloads. Imagine on every single new session, you would have to download your game, which could be several or tens or over a hundred gigabytes in size, which wastes your time and uses Nvidia’s internet bandwidth quite inefficiently. Nvidia probably wants to store as many games as possible on site, meaning that when you go to download your game, it’s not downloading through the internet but just from local storage. It’s understandable that Nvidia doesn’t want to host every single PC game on the market, there’s just way too many games for that to be feasible.
Another important difference between Stadia and GeForce Now is pricing. If you want to use Stadia, you need to buy the Stadia Premiere Edition, which costs $130 up front for a controller and streaming device in addition to the $10 a month required to stream games. Then, you’ll also have to buy most of your games to even play them at all. By contrast, GeForce Now is $5 a month (at least for now) and you still have to buy your own games, but at least the games you buy aren’t locked to GeForce Now, they’re your PC games from Steam and other launchers. Both services do have a free version, but Google hasn’t launched theirs yet. Nvidia’s free version does have a 1 hour cap, but at least it exists.
I haven’t personally experienced GeForce Now, but on paper it seems like a decent value as long as you have a good internet connection. You’re basically paying $5 a month to make any worthy device into a good gaming PC, with a GPU at least as fast as an RTX 2060 since Nvidia does promise RTX support. I do have caution about game streaming services, but if any company can pull it off today, it’s Nvidia.